Friday, January 11, 2008

Artificial Avatars, Chemreader and Plato

As I have been working in my SL lab, I have begun to realize the importance of employing an avatar so as to introduce visitors to the lab. This will become even more important when we begin to manage multiple labs in different locations. Since the task of introducing visitors to the lab seem to be quite repetitive, it seems natural that one could use an artificial, computer controlled avatar, instead of an avatar that is controlled by a RL human. One wonders if it may be possible to program an artificial, computer-controlled avatar that may be indistinguishable from a human-controlled avatar. Artificial avatars could be endowed with learning capabilities similar to Chemreader, a project that Kazu Saitou, his graduate student Jungkap Park and I have been working on for the past two years. Chemreader involves developing machine vision based on digital representations of the world, automatically improving the machine vision component based on feedback loops with the digital representation. It is a top-down approach to learning, paralleling Plato's philosophical concept of intelligence. We have been developing Chemreader in the contex to cheminformatics and the PubChem database. Pubchem is a database of all known molecules that have been synthesized. These molecules (over 20,000,000 of them, I believe) are stored in a digital form (a connectivity table, SMILES string, etc). From the digital form, one can generate a drawing of the molecule. Then the machine vision tool known as Chemreader (the equivalent of a human retina) can "see" the chemical drawing and draw what it sees in terms of a connectivity table or SMILES string. By comparing the connectivity table or SMILES string output of Chemreader with the original connectivity table or SMILES string digital representation used to draw the chemical structure, one can not only get a sense of how well Chemreader is seeing, but also develop an algorthim that will improve Chemreader's code. One can imagine applying a similar strategy to develop a machine vision algorithm that is able to provide vision to an avatar, in a manner that would allow the avatar to navigate the ever evolving 3D world, much like a human controlled avatar would. The Chemreader articles are in the process of being written and published. If anyone wants to learn more about Chemreader, please feel free to get in touch with us.

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About Me

I am Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences